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BASIC - dormitory, shared bathrooms, basic camping
SIMPLE - homestay, farmhouse, 1-star hotel
COMFORT - 2-3 star hotel, Alpine Hut+ (potentially with shared bath), Agritourismo+, comfort camping
BOUTIQUE - 3-4 star hotel, unique property, luxury camping
DELUXE - 4-5 star hotel, generally also boutique/smaller properties but with more amenities
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1
Easy/Limited: little required physical activity
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Light: easy walks, little elevation gain/loss, basic fitness. May not be daily
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Active: full trip involves some physical activity daily (walking, hiking or cycling)
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Moderate: sustained physical activity throughout the trip (hiking, cycling....elevation gain/loss, terrain should also be considered.)
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Challenging (mountain trekking, etc.)

Ceremonies & Culture In a Cup. The Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Route is a fascinating journey that takes us along the mystical and ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road, immersing us in the cultures and traditions it has impacted and shaped. On this epic journey with Jeff Fuchs, we retrace part of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road through diverse landscapes and cultures. During the 10 days in Yunnan, we will take part in tea ceremonies – tasting some of the best teas in the world from their original source – as well as gain insight into the development of tea culture. We begin in China’s far southwest, in subtropical Xishuangbanna – the original source of all tea.

We then head up to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road to a former trading post, Shaxi, and further north to Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and finally, to the mountainous Tibetan region of Shangri-La. The vibrant tea forests of southern Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna) offer up an almost forgotten subtropical land of mists and indigenous ethnic minority communities. Wander through steamy forests of thousand-year-old tea trees and learn about the multitude of ways that tea has been used as medicine, a cleanser and poultice.

Take in ancient cobbled portions of the Road in the historic trading town of Shaxi. For centuries, this Bai ethnic minority town has provided shelter, goods and support for the caravans that journeyed further north into the Himalayas, and we’ll glimpse a portion of the Road still intact. Because of its status as a World Heritage site, this town offers a genuine peek into Bai culture and another ‘face’ of the Road. Visit a trader’s home and engage in a tea ceremony to learn more about the teas that the Tibetan Plateau craves. The landscapes and cultural traditions change as we continue north, stopping in Lijiang, where our time provides us with a glimpse into the local Naxi culture, as well as the unique role of the Road – and teas traded along it – in the lives of people in this region. After Lijiang we make our way to the mystical Tibetan land of ‘Shangri-La’ (Zhongdian), at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau. When tea was introduced to the Tibetan world, it changed daily Tibetan life forever. Our stay in Shangri-La offers a glimpse into the significance of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road in Tibetan life. We’ll come away with an intimate knowledge and appreciation of this land and its special tea culture.                                                                                           

Dominique and Jim

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Highlights of Ancient Tea & Horse Route, China:

  • Savor culturally-authentic local cuisine and celebrated regional teas
  • Experience little-known living cultures firsthand
  • Experience unique lodgings while interacting with locals
More Highlights ›

This fascinating journey takes us along the mystical and ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road, immersing us in the cultures and traditions it has impacted and shaped.

On this epic journey with Jeff Fuchs, we retrace part of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road through diverse landscapes and cultures. During the 10 days in Yunnan, we will take part in tea ceremonies – tasting some of the best teas in the world from their original source – as well as gain insight into the development of tea culture.

We begin in China’s far southwest, in subtropical Xishuangbanna – the original source of all tea. We then head up to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road to a former trading post, Shaxi, and further north to Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and finally, to the mountainous Tibetan region of Shangri-La.

The vibrant tea forests of southern Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna) offer up an almost forgotten subtropical land of mists and indigenous ethnic minority communities. Wander through steamy forests of thousand-year-old tea trees and learn about the multitude of ways that tea has been used as medicine, a cleanser and poultice. Take in ancient cobbled portions of the Road in the historic trading town of Shaxi. For centuries, this Bai ethnic minority town has provided shelter, goods and support for the caravans that journeyed further north into the Himalayas, and we’ll glimpse a portion of the Road still intact. Because of its status as a World Heritage site, this town offers a genuine peek into Bai culture and another ‘face’ of the Road. Visit a trader’s home and engage in a tea ceremony to learn more about the teas that the Tibetan Plateau craves.

The landscapes and cultural traditions change as we continue north, stopping in Lijiang, where our time provides us with a glimpse into the local Naxi culture, as well as the unique role of the Road – and teas traded along it – in the lives of people in this region. After Lijiang we make our way to the mystical Tibetan land of ‘Shangri-La’ (Zhongdian), at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau. When tea was introduced to the Tibetan world, it changed daily Tibetan life forever. Our stay in Shangri-La offers a glimpse into the significance of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road in Tibetan life. We’ll come away with an intimate knowledge and appreciation of this land and its special tea culture.

 

Day 1: Arrive in Xishuangbanna, Jinghong

Highlights: Locally-sourced welcome dinner and tea sampling

Arrive in Xishuangbanna | Welcome dinner with Jeff Fuchs and first tea sampling | Overnight in Jinghong, the capital city of Xishuangbanna

Overnight in Xishuangbanna (Jinghong)

Activity & Distance: 20-minute transfer from airport to hotel

 

Day 2: An Introduction to Xishuangbanna

Highlights: Visit to local Dai minority village; meet with local handicraft and tea producers

Jeff will host an orientation of the Tea & Horse Road and Xishuangbanna tea culture | Visit to a local Dai ethnic community village | Return to Yourantai for a meal of organic produce

Overnight in Xishuangbanna (Jinghong)

Activity & Distance: 30 minute hike to Dai village in the morning; meet with local handicraft and tea producers in the afternoon; light walking through village, 3 – 4 km/approx. 2 – 2.5mi

 

Day 3: Exploring Xishuangbanna

Highlights: Explore Menghai’s local market, taste some Nong Yan sour tea, hike to the Nannuo Mountain region’s ancient tea tree forest

Morning visit to the local food market at Menghai | Visit the Bulang village of Nongyan | Stop by a monastery on the way to our hike on Nannuoshan | Learn about ancient tea trees | Sit down to tea with a local Aini ethnic community family | Share a meal with your Aini hosts

Overnight in Xishuangbanna at an Aini village home-stay (option to stay at hotel in Jinghong; additional expense)

Activity & Distance: 50-minute transfer from hotel to Menghai local food market; 25-minute transfer from Menghai to the Bulang; 3 hours active hiking through the tea forests of Nannuo Mountain, at approx. 1,000 –1,500 meters (4,921 ft.), with a 1-hour descent.

 

Day 4: Xishuangbanna - Dali – Shaxi

Highlights: Meander through Dali Old Town, and Shaxi’s traditional market square

Fly to Dali | Lunch in Dali, an important stop along the Road | Drive (3 hrs) to Shaxi Village | Explore Shaxi Old Town after a lunch of local Bai cuisine | Head to your hotel for some down time after a busy day | Dinner at Laomadian Guesthouse

Overnight in Shaxi, Yunnan province

Activity & Distance: Flight to Dali (approximately one hour), explore Dali before driving three hours to Shaxi. Leisurely exploration and light walking, altitude at 2,100 meters (6,890 ft.)

 

Day 5: Shaxi

Highlights: Shaxi valley hike, traditional Bai cuisine cooking lesson

Hike across Shaxi's fertile valley | Picnic lunch accompanied by local regional tea | Try your hand at cooking Bai cuisine yourself at a cooking class | Dinner at a local restaurant (as usual, expect plenty of fresh local greens)

Overnight in Shaxi, Yunnan province

Activity & Distance: 45 minute transfer from hotel to start of hike; moderate walking through fields of canola, altitude at 2,100 meters (6,890 ft.). Afternoon optional cooking class/demo.

 

Day 6: Shaxi – Lijiang

Highlights: Explore the Jianchuan Shibaoshan grottoes, scenic mountain and bamboo forest hike

Start the day at the Jianchuan Shibaoshan Grottoes, Buddhist grottoes, which offer a glimpse into the history of the Dali Kingdom | Hike through bamboo groves and back down to Shaxi | Lunch before driving to Lijiang | Evening is free to relax and explore

Overnight in Lijiang

Activity & Distance: 30-minute transfer from hotel to Jianchuan Shibaoshan Grottoes; 2-hour transfer from Shaxi to Lijiang; approximately 2.5 hours moderate hiking, with a descent; altitude at 2,400 meters (7,874 ft.)

Additional Notes: While moderate, we have a descent which requires attention regarding ankles and knees. As always, we will need to consider the weather as mornings can be quite cold, so you will need time to warm up.

 

Day 7: Lijiang - Shangri-La

Highlights: Stroll through Lijiang’s rustic Old Town, take a tea break in view of the first bend of the Yangtze River

Early morning exploration of Lijiang Old Town | On drive to Shangri-La, stop at the First Bend of the Yangtse River for a tea break and chance to admire the view | Overnight in Shangri-La behind the Songzanlin Monastery

Overnight in Shangri-La

Activity & Distance: 4 – 5 hours transfer from Lijiang to Shangri-La; light walking at 3,200 meters (10,499 ft.)

 

Day 8: Shangri-La

Highlights: Visit the majestic Songzanlin Monastery, explore Shangri-La’s historic Old Town

Visit the Songzanlin Monastery in the morning | Meander through Shangri-La Old Town after lunch at a local cafe | Dinner in an original Tibetan building | Join the locals for a dance at the village square

Overnight in Shangri-La

Activity & Distance: 30-minute transfer from hotel to Songzanlin Tibetan Monastery; 2-hour moderate walk to the monastery and around the temple, altitude at 3,200 meters (10,499 ft.)

Additional Notes: Due to Shangri-La’s high altitude our exercise will be limited (or extended) according to how everyone is feeling. Not only do the altitudes need to be acclimatized to, but also the drop in temperature and the increasing volatility of air pressure systems which steam out of the Himalayas.

 

Day 9: Shangri-La

Highlights: Hike the Napa Lake nature reserve, visit the Nixi artisan village, and feast on local dishes in a Tibetan home, participate in cultural festivities

Hike a section of the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road around Napa Lake | Enjoy a picnic lunch complete with thermoses of Tibetan tea | Stop in the artisan pottery village of Nixi | Farewell Tibetan dinner complete with butter tea, ground barley, and dishes galore of traditional Tibetan fare | If the feeling strikes you, join in with the local Tibetan dancers

Overnight in Shangri-La

Activity & Distance: Moderate walking , altitude at around 3,200 meters

 

Day 10: Departure

After breakfast, head to the Shangri-La airport for your flights home | Journey ends

Distance: 20-minute transfer to Shangri-La (Diqing) airport

 

Meet Our Whole Journeys Expert Jeff Fuchs

Having lived for much of the past decade in Asia, Jeff Fuchs' work has centered on indigenous mountain peoples and Asian traditions, with a particular emphasis on tea and the Himalayas. Jeff's book, ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Canada), documents his ground-breaking journey through the Himalayas along Asia's legendary trade route. Fuchs is the first westerner to ever travel the entire length of the famed caravan route. His vibrant photos and stories have appeared in publications such as World Geographic, Spanish Geographical Society, The Earth, Voyage, and China Post, among others. He has also been featured in the National Chinese television documentary ‘Follow Me’ and on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Fuchs was recently awarded a grant from the prestigious Banff Mountain Institute to continue his work in documenting fast disappearing cultures on the Himalayan Plateau. He is a member of the fabled Explorers Club (www.explorersclub.ca) which promotes sustainable exploration and preservation of the globe’s natural sanctuaries.

 

More on our Partner Wild China

This program is under the operation of Wild China and is not a Whole Journeys Tour though the focus of the Tea Horse road is very aligned with our tours, which focus on the culture and traditions of food. Though we have been on the ground and worked with Wild China and Jeff, we are not experts in rapidly changing China. We trust Wild China to keep up on new properties and adjust experiences to avoid typical tourist routes, offer expert engaging local drivers and assistants to add to Jeff’s expertise, and assist with all details of your travel plans.

Wild China is the operator of this trip and all reservations, policies and guests services will be arranged directly with them. Their team will assist with your visa requirements, flights, pre-post arrangements and answer any logistical details and questions you will certainly have.

 

More on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road

The Tea and Horse Caravan Road of southwest China is less-known than the famous Silk Road. Its route crosses some very high and dangerous terrain. It begins from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China, runs along the eastern foothills of the Hengduan Mountains – a center of tea production in China – then crosses the Hengduan mountain range and deep canyons of several major rivers; the Yalong, the Jinsha (the upper reaches of Yangtze), the Lancang (Mekong), and the Nu (Salween), thus spanning the two highest plateaus of China (Qinghai-Tibet and Yunnan-Guizhou) before finally reaching India, south of the Himalayas.

The name of the road (Chamadao in the Chinese records means ‘the tea and horse road’) indicates its importance in the trade of tea and horses, but other products passed along it as well. Horse caravans carried tea, sugar and salt from Sichuan and Yunnan to Tibet and brought back colorful local mountain goods. Over the ages, Chinese often bought warhorses from Tibetan and other ethnic groups of southwest China, and these too were brought over this road.

The Road also served as a significant corridor for migration as well as a channel for cultural communication among the ethnic groups in western China; beyond this, it was a bridge for international cultural and economic exchange between China and India. Although silk was not included in the trade goods carried over, at times it has been termed the ‘Southern Silk Road of China’, due to its importance in both economic and cultural aspects of Chinese history.

By Yang Fuquan, expert of Naxi ethnic history
 

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Ceremonies & Culture In a Cup. The Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Route is a fascinating journey that takes us along the mystical and ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road, immersing us in the cultures and traditions it has impacted and shaped. On this epic journey with Jeff Fuchs, we retrace part of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road through diverse landscapes and cultures. During the 10 days in Yunnan, we will take part in tea ceremonies – tasting some of the best teas in the world from their original source – as well as gain insight into the development of tea culture. We begin in China’s far southwest, in subtropical Xishuangbanna – the original source of all tea.

We then head up to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road to a former trading post, Shaxi, and further north to Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and finally, to the mountainous Tibetan region of Shangri-La. The vibrant tea forests of southern Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna) offer up an almost forgotten subtropical land of mists and indigenous ethnic minority communities. Wander through steamy forests of thousand-year-old tea trees and learn about the multitude of ways that tea has been used as medicine, a cleanser and poultice.

Take in ancient cobbled portions of the Road in the historic trading town of Shaxi. For centuries, this Bai ethnic minority town has provided shelter, goods and support for the caravans that journeyed further north into the Himalayas, and we’ll glimpse a portion of the Road still intact. Because of its status as a World Heritage site, this town offers a genuine peek into Bai culture and another ‘face’ of the Road. Visit a trader’s home and engage in a tea ceremony to learn more about the teas that the Tibetan Plateau craves. The landscapes and cultural traditions change as we continue north, stopping in Lijiang, where our time provides us with a glimpse into the local Naxi culture, as well as the unique role of the Road – and teas traded along it – in the lives of people in this region. After Lijiang we make our way to the mystical Tibetan land of ‘Shangri-La’ (Zhongdian), at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau. When tea was introduced to the Tibetan world, it changed daily Tibetan life forever. Our stay in Shangri-La offers a glimpse into the significance of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road in Tibetan life. We’ll come away with an intimate knowledge and appreciation of this land and its special tea culture.                                                                                           

Dominique and Jim

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